What is an EEPROM?

An EEPROM Chip or Electrical Erasable Read-Only Memory, is a storage device for storing data that can be erased and reprogrammed. The advantage to using EEPROM technology is that it allows for a program that is stored to be partially erased and reprogrammed allowing an easy way for applications engineers to make changes on the fly. Many Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC’s), Operator Interfaces, Computers and Numerical Controls used in industrial applications make use of EEPROMS.

What is the difference between EPROM and EEPROM?

While sometimes treated interchangeably an EPROM and EEPROM are two very different devices. The extra “e” at the front of EEPROM stands for “Electrically” erasable while an EPROM is simply erasable. What does this mean? Well, in the early days of EPROM technology these chips could only be erased by exposing a special small quartz crystal window at the top to UV light. Later an electrically erasable version was developed that made erasing programs much more quick and efficient.

What are the failure modes of EEPROMS?

One of the problems that can occur is that during a significant surge of current or electrical noise an EEPROM can lose its program. In addition, extended exposure to UV light (such as sunlight) can cause the chip to lose memory as well or corrupt sections or “bits” of the program. Usually the window that is used for erasure is covered by a special sticker but not always, so it is important to keep any device with an EEPROM away from direct sunlight. In the case of an EEPROM, this is not a concern. Contrary to popular belief EEPROM memory is non-volatile and does not have to be constantly under power to retain its memory. In fact, this is the reason why EEPROMS are commonly used to store programs that aid in the boot-up of a device.

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